Friday, July 3, 2009

Figure Skating Sportsmanship

Last weekend Ice Girl competed in a small Basic Skills figure skating competition. A skater who has competed against Ice Girl a bunch of times this year entered the locker room with her mother and sister. Mom belittled, berated, and complained the whole time. She ranted and cussed, then finally went to sit in the stands.

Ice Coach and I exchanged looks. So that’s where the kid gets her bad attitude.

Indeed, according to a report by a team of researchers from the Universities of Missouri – St. Louis, Minnesota – Twin cities, and Notre Dame, researchers found that kids model their sportsmanship habits from their perceptions of their coach’s and parents’ behavior. And it doesn’t get better with age, either. Older kids are poorer sports than younger kids.

Later in the day, Ice Girl was skating her freeskate. The kid has an amazing straight-leg sit spin (she calls it spin-the-duck). It’s pretty cool.

After the event, Ice Coach told me that bad-attitude skater said while Ice Girl was spinning, “I hope she falls.”

It took my breath away.

I thought it might be a teachable moment for Ice Girl, you know, about sportsmanship. It turns out she was way ahead of me.

“Mom. No big deal. I’m fine.”

Well, I’m not. I’m on a tear and Ice Girl is completely uninterested in my preaching and ranting about bad-attitude skater.

So, I’ve been reading up on how not to create a monster. Here are some suggestions I’ve found:

  • Develop the person first, the athlete second. That’s NCAA basketball coach John Wooden’s philosophy. “Coaching for character” is the primary responsibility of the coach. Coaching should emphasize successful character skills that have carry-over both on the ice and in life, Wooden said. Emphasize optimism, courage, patience, perseverance, effort, honesty, and responsibility.

  • Don’t put pressure on your kid to be the best. Encourage your kid to love the sport and work hard.

  • Be the person you’d like your kid to be. I’m not always good at this, but I try. I try not to be a sore loser when every man, woman, child, and dog beats me at any card or board game invented. I try not to be a poor winner, either. Of course, that so rarely happens that I’m too stunned to do a victory dance.

  • Encourage hard work. This is from a cognitive scientist, but I think there’s carry over to sports. Daniel Willingham wrote, “Students who believe that intelligence can be improved with hard work get higher grades than students who believe that intelligence is an immutable trait.” When Ice Girl doesn’t do as well as she would like, I always tell her, “Just work harder.” Of course, she turns into a figure skating maniac before competitions and begs anyone who can drive to take her to walk-on ice. But, there are worse things than hard work.

  • The best revenge is living well. Fine. I didn’t find this from any expert. This is my own naughty-ness, but I think it’s good advice. Concentrate on yourself and your own success. Don’t let the trolls and their tolls bring you down. Living well will shut them up, anyway.

Do you have a good tip about sportsmanship? Do you have experience with figure skating trolls? Feel free to share in the comments.


“Raising a good sport.” Scholastic Parent & Child. Feb/Mar 2007, Vol. 14, Issue 5.

Wellman, Chris. “Positive Coaching: A Guide to the Productive Teaching of Athletics.” Coach & Athletic Director. January 2007, vol. 76, Issue 6, p 97-08.

Willingham, Daniel T. Why Don’t Students Like School? Jossey-Bass. 2009, p. 140.

“Youth Sports.” Education Week. 12/12/2007, Vol. 27 Issue 15, p5.


merry-one said...

Your list sounds like a great list to raise a good human-being, into sports or not. I think it is right on. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to sound offensive but I have to ask. Was the skater with a bad attitude African American? The reason I ask is because of the picture you used to represent your post is African American. Maybe you chose this image because the skater looks like she has an attitude. I don't know. Just and FYI, the image you chose to represent this post offended me. I'm biracial (African American and Caucasian). I do agree that there are many African American females with bad attitudes. I'm not one of them and I've always raised my daughter who has been skating for 12 years to be a good sport. She cheers for all her friends, even if they are skating against her. She congradulates the skaters who win in her event and she never cries in front of other skaters when she is diappointed with her performs or placement after judging.
I may be over reacting to the image posted but I thought you should know how I feel because I may not be the only African American person who reads your blog and it may offend other people. I hope that you don't feel I have a bad attitude. It just makes me upset when African American images are used to represent negative or bad oppinions. Please be more sensitive to all races when you chose an image to represent a post and how it may make other people feel when they see these images in the future.
You may not have been aware that this image would offend someone but that is part of the problem and it needs to be addressed when it happens or it will continue to happen. Thank you, Season Williams an avid reader and commenter to your blog

Ice Mom said...

Oh, no! Anony (Season), I didn't mean anything by the picture at all!

Thank you very much for calling this potential problem to my attention. I didn't mean for anyone to be offended whatsoever.

When I chose the picture, I just thought that I don't have many African-American skaters on my blog and that I should have one. I thought she looked sad - like someone might have picked on her - not like an aggressor.

Readers - please note that I've changed the picture to a more neutral image. I plan to bring back the African American girl in another post.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Ice Mom,
I love your blog and I'm so glad that you were understanding regarding my post. I hope others who read the post will also be understanding. Thank you also for changing the image. I'm also happy that you want to represent all ethnic groups in you blog images. I wish there were more images of other ethnic groups for figurer skating. Thank you so very much, Season Williams

Ice Mom said...

Thank you very much, Season, for the kind reply.

I'm searching for images that represent all figure skaters, but you're right: the images don't represent all ethnic groups.

If anyone knows where I can find images that reflect more skaters' ethnic groups, please let me know.

Angie said...

Thank you for posting this! We always tell our daughter that all we ever expect is her best. It really doesn't matter where she places, what matters most is her attitude and the effort she puts forth. You win some and you lose some. But IMO how you handle both, says a lot about who you are as a person. Some of this etiquette is learned while some of it in my opinonis common curteousy. The old saying: "Do unto others as you would do unto yourself" holds true here too. People are human and I believe we all have our moments when we do not behave our best, but the goal is to try and avoid those pitfalls as much as possible.

Bella said...

We really ask our daughters to really do their best. It's for their good after all.